Friday, July 4, 2014

Petition to the Virginia General Assembly 1785

The petition below comes from the Library of Virginia Digital Collections. This document was written on 29 November 1785 to the Virginia General Assembly and signed by residents of Fauquier County, including my 6th-great-grandfather Daniel Wheatley, other members of the Wheatley family, and their neighbors.

To the Honourable the General Assembly of the State of Virginia, the petition of the underwritten inhabitants of the said State...assembly showeth

That your petitioners are persuaded that Religion is of the highest moment and greatest importance to mankind. That its transcendant superiority in doing good exceeds all comparison, but they are at the same time persuaded that no taxes or confiscations or compulsions of any kind have ever promoted its glorious cause. That the Saviour of the World and his Apostles have not directly or indirectly any such method for the propagation of truth, but on the contrary by example as well as percept have proceeded in a different manner. That it has been universally allowed by the writers on this subject that religion flourished among the primitive Christians more than it has ever since, tho' they received no support from the civil powers. That the faithful ministers of the different denominations who have a real zeal for the welfare of mankind are contented with the free-will offering of the people; and none but the ambitious, the lazy, the luxurious Ministers who labour (if it can be called labour), merely for Gold and not for the good of their fellow creatures; have need of compulsive measures for their support.

That the State will be abundantly happier and its members will be more virtuous without those ministers who fleece but watch not over the flock than with them. That no cannot [unclear], after the convulsions the State has experienced by its glorious and successful struggle for liberty, everything to be instananeously in its most perfect State, but in the course of providence we doubt not that a sufficient number of faithful Ministers will be raised, men who seek not power and riches, but the welfare of mankind; that one great advantage among many of the Revolution has been the expulsion of most of those hirelings who got into the priest's office merely out of temporal motives, and therefore, that we humbly entreat and earnestly pray and beseech the Honourable the Assembly that compulsive measures may not be used for the support of a lazy, indolent clergy (for we are conscious that faithful ministers want no support of the kind) and consequently that no, no assessment on account of religion may take place.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, shall pray
This document was signed by Daniel Wheatley and his uncles James Wheatley, Joseph Wheatley and George Wheatley, among others.

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